As of this writing, NASA’s Voyager spacecraft are a combined 22 billion miles from the sun, a result of traveling forty years through the cosmos. And the truly astonishing thing is both spacecraft are still communicating with scientists.
Since launching in 1977, the Voyager Missions have seen several major landmarks in our solar system, including Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, eventually passing the termination shock, where the Sun has less influence.
Voyager 1 reached interstellar space all the way back in 2012, passing beyond the heliopause, which NASA says is the boundary between our solar bubble and the matter ejected by explosions of other stars.
NASA initially intended for both spacecraft to explore Jupiter and Saturn, but the missions were extended, with newer, unexplored territory on the horizon.
Once Voyager 2 reaches interstellar space, scientists are hoping to learn more about the region. Below you can check out some facts about both missions, along with some spectacular images the two spacecraft have captured during their travels.
- Voyager 1 is escaping the solar system at a speed of about 3.6 AU per year.
- Voyager 2 is escaping the solar system at a speed of about 3.3 AU per year.
- The Voyager spacecraft are the third and fourth human spacecraft to fly beyond all the planets in our solar system. Pioneers 10 and 11 preceded Voyager in outstripping the gravitational attraction of the Sun but on February 17, 1998, Voyager 1 passed Pioneer 10 to become the most distant human-made object in space.
- Voyager 2 launched on August 20, 1977, from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket. On September 5, Voyager 1 launched, also from Cape Canaveral aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket.